It was a weekend for Toyota at Richmond Raceway. The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series in April have carried the Toyota sponsorship for quite a while. The ToyotaCare 250 already notched the manufacturer with an Xfinity win Saturday as Ty Gibbs grabbed the checkered flag.
The NASCAR Cup Toyota Owners 400 doubled down as Denny Hamlin drove the #11 FedEx Toyota to a Sunday win.
It did not look so obvious at the start. Ryan Blaney in the #12 Penske Ford and William Byron in the Liberty #12 Chevy started out on row 1 with the drop of the green. Blaney held the lead for the stage one win with Byron right there for second.
Blaney started stage two out front but Martin Truex, Jr took over following green flag pit stops. Truex and Christopher Bell traded off but the stage 2 win went to Truex with Bell claiming second. The #19 and #20 of Truex and Bell put Toyota in the spotlight at the stage 2 half way point.
The restart for the final stage put the #19 and the #20 back into running order. A caution brought on by a triple car shot as Cole Custer and Ty Dillon touched which pushed into Austin Cindric. William Byron stays out as others pit for position on the lead at the restart.
Martin Truex, Jr was chasing on the #24 of Byron. As laps ticked by, Truex stayed on the #24 but Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin were making gains. Hamlin was running fresher tires than the rest and made better time.
At five laps to go Hamlin went by Truex and took the inside of the #24. Harvick also drove the advantage of the high side #24 and followed the #11 by. Hamlin and Harvick ran one and two for the checkers.
The racing doesn’t have too far to go for the next event. NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Series all make their way to Martinsville for the next race weekend. Blue Emu / Call 811 weekend runs late in the day Thursday through Saturday to finish under the lights at the historic “paperclip”, celebrating 75 years of NASCAR at the track.
Full Photo Gallery of the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway – April 3, 2022
Ty Gibbs is seems to be collecting early season wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Seven starts and three wins have put Gibbs in a spot of having a lead in playoff points but a second spot in the regular season standings. A.J. Allmendinger holds the lead in the season using the NASCAR math of a race win plus top 5, top 10 and stage wins. Despite the real series leading 3 wins for Gibbs, the #54 driver and #9 driver, Noah Gragson are tied 20 points off of Allmendinger.
For Richmond Raceway and the ToyotaCare 250, Ty Gibbs was driving hard for the win all day. He and team mate John Hunter Nemechek started one and two with Toyotas leading the field to the green flag. Nemechek took the stage 1 win. Gibbs was in front for stage 2. In the final laps, the #54 of Gibbs and the #18 of Nemechek were still racing for the lead. The #18 had gotten around the #54 with 3 laps to go after several exchanges over the final 50 laps. Gibbs was on the bumper of the #18 with a nudge here and tap there.
It came down to the final turn of the final lap as Ty Gibbs came into turn three underneath Nemechek and drove the #54 up into turn four forcing Nemechek onto the brakes or into the wall. The move put Gibbs out front on the front stretch for the win.
Post race, Gibbs knew there was trouble ahead. “I definitely deserve one back but we’re racing for wins” he said.
Nemechek, who is actually running full time in the Camping World Series, was noticeably put off by the last lap. “Him and I will settle it one day,” Nemechek said. “I don’t want to say too much and get myself in trouble…. Just got drove through… He didn’t even try and make the corner…”
Also noteable for the ToyotaCare 250 was a first time Xfinity starter, Rajah Caruth. The 19 year old African-American driver is an ARCA and Advance Auto Weekly Series driver racing with Alpha Prime Racing at Richmond. His first Xfinity start comes at a track he had visited as a child with his family. He finished 24th.
The Comcast Dash 4 Cash winner at Richmond (four drivers determined eligible after Circuit of the Americas) was Sam Mayer, driver of the #1 Accelerate Pros Talent Chevrolet. The eligible drivers at Martinsville will be Ty Gibbs, Sam Mayer, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.
The Top 5 finishers in the ToyotaCare 250
John Hunter Nemechek
PHOTOS from the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway
A little luck and some lap traffic brought a come back win to Justin Bonsignore Friday evening at Richmond Raceway.
The Whelen Modified Tour ran at Richmond on April 1st, 2022 following the season opener at New Smyrna, Florida. A mechanical issue put Bonsignore off the race to finish last in Florida. The win at Richmond brought back some of the form for the three-time series champion.
Justin won the pole and ran well but it was Tommy Catalano that raised the pressure with a fast car and first position as the race came into the later laps. Slower traffic put Catalano off the pace which allowed Bonsignore to get back up and in position. Catalano spun slightly and with 10 to go, allowing Bonsignore to get by and lead to the finish.
Top Five at the Whelen Modified – Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150
Well… Now it’s on! NASCAR has packed the April schedule with a Virginia run on short track racing.
*OK fine… Technically, the Bristol Motor Speedway is in Tennessee. However, Bristol itself is split on the Virginia border…
Richmond is up first. Martinsville the weekend after. Bristol (yeah yeah) is on Easter Sunday. This is reversed from Spring of 2021.
So far, season points races have seen young and newer Cup stars in the victory spotlights. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have wins in non-point, pre-season events.
Austin Cindric made his NASCAR Cup points debut in the #2 Penske Ford and won the Daytona 500. Defending Cup Champion Kyle Larson grabbed a win at Auto Club Speedway in California. Alex Bowman took Vegas making 7 career Cup wins. Chase Briscoe also notched his first Cup win with a checkers at Phoenix. William Byron added to his two previous wins (2021, 2020) with a victory in Atlanta. The most recent success came at Circuit of the Americas as Ross Chastain placed his first Cup win.
Oddly enough, Chase Elliott is currently leading the points with no wins but “top finish position” math adds up. Elliott is, oddly enough, the lone Hendrick driver without a win but is certainly making the effort.
Early season racing has focused on speed, drafting and shaking down the “new generation” car in race conditions. One exhibition short track outing gave a clue but the Virginia sweep will find all the tight pack nuances of how these bigger brakes and sequential shifting play out. The tight quarter pit stops will also make the teams hit all the new marks for tires and fuel.
NASCAR Cup features runs at all three tracks. The Xfinity Series runs at Richmond and Martinsville but skips the “dirt race” of Bristol. Camping World Trucks skip Richmond but run Martinsville and Bristol. Richmond Raceway also will host the Whelen Modified Series with the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150 to fill out the Toyota Owners / Toyota Care weekend.
Xfinity will be on race number seven coming away from Circuit of The Americas. AJ Allmendinger grabbed the road course win. Ty Gibbs has two wins so far with Austin Hill and Noah Gragson holding one each. Cole Custer also has an Xfinity win but is running points in the Cup series. Gragson barely has a points lead in the series.
Camping World Trucks will be running their fifth race of the season at Martinsville. Chandler Smith and Corey Heim have one win. Zane Smith has two wins from Daytona and COTA. The math of finish positions and a win has Chandler Smith currently on top of the points going into Martinsville.
Also, Richmond and Martinsville invite fans to the tracks on race week for “Charity Laps”. For Richmond Raceway on March 30, register and drive your car on the track with funds benefiting the Henrico Firefighter Foundation. For Martinsville on April 6, your car on the track benefits Vet Tix (Organization supplying sport and entertainment for United States Veterans).
Another highlight for the season in Virginia is Martinsville Speedway celebrating 75 years of NASCAR racing history at the track. The honors are reflected with a special anniversary display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. However, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 weekend at Martinsville is just beyond. We have Richmond Raceway first up for April short track racing. The Whelen Modified race is a welcome return at Richmond with series runs there peppered back to 1990. Modified racing made a NASCAR sanction first for Virginia and Richmond way back in 1948.
It’s time. April is NASCAR in Virginia. Also – Don’t forget to check your short tracks, too. Home tracks, dirt tracks and drag strips are all coming alive this month! Go racing!
Kyle Busch did not win. The position was there for the advantage but the late race caution shuffled the deck for an “all in” run for the finish.
It was Eric Jones in the #43 that almost had it down on the apron but the car lost traction and slid back on the track in front of Bubba Wallace who clipped it with the #23 and took a dive to the infield safety tire wall. It was Kyle Busch out front racing team mate Truex, Jr before the caution.
With the history and “home town” advantage, one would think a gamble for the win would be second nature. However, it was the Hendrick teams that gambled on two tires at the pit to roll them out in position. It paid off for Alex Bowman as the ALLY #48 took the checkers at Vegas after starting the late race run with team mate Kyle Larson on the front row.
Kyle Busch was left back in fourth place. The caution was not with Busch’s words as post race comments seemed to pull Bowman through the coals of harsh language and criticism of the win. Kyle is not known for constraint at a loss that was so close to a win and reports are that the two drivers have, indeed, spoken following the race. Cooler heads and a sense of humor prevailed as both Bowman and Busch threw down with special sales on their merch.
Animal Shelters benefited from the sale of Bowman “All Luck – No Skill” T-shirts (from Kyle’s comments) and some Kyle Busch items online were marked 48% off (Bowman’s number). Heat of the moment comments were turned to lighter responses and good cause results.
Racing this month is all about big tracks and big speeds. Next month the short tracks will put these new cars to a real test. The drivers and teams have only had a temporary stadium bit of asphalt to get a taste of short track bumping. Richmond and Martinsville are ready to heat up the mix. The Richmond “D” oval track offers some of the speed of the west and mixes it up with some tight turns. Toyota Owners weekend is a good cross over into the short tracks.
Martinsville is tight and quick. Those new bigger brakes and wider tires will get a workout and many drivers will be reaching for the Blue Emu after 500 laps. It’s a track that has been testing cars for a long time and this year with a really new package is going to be very interesting.
Bristol…? They are bringing the dirt back in. These cars are designed to be at home on asphalt. Dirt wasn’t part of the plan when the drawing boards were out on this car. Bristol and dirt came into the mix on the back end. It is going to be a Food City show!
Let’s not forget that weekender racing is also opening up fast. Every home track is looking at schedules and a supply line for tires after many last year had to limit or cancel some events. Tracks of all types are getting under way for 2022 so nobody has to wait for the NASCAR Cup show to catch exciting racing all around the country.
NASCAR is in Phoenix this weekend. Everybody can’t be there… So where are you racing? Check your home track schedule and catch some laps!
NASCAR points math ranks right up there with income tax math and black jack card counting. With that, we could dig around and find out how Kyle Larson with 4 wins is 13 season points behind Denny Hamlin with no wins. Larson and Hamlin are tied in Top 5 and Top 10 finishes and Larson actually has 7 more stage wins than Hamlin. Larson has 1 DNF, however, he is leading the “Playoff” rankings while Hamlin sits in the 4th slot.
With the Tokyo Summer Olympics taking the spotlight on NBC, NASCAR is on a break until August 8 weekend and Watkins Glen. It’s a great time to take stock and set the stage for the final 4 races of the regular season in August. The playoffs begin at Darlington in September with Richmond the weekend after.
The most recent winner was Aric Almirola at New Hampshire. Kurt Busch has a win from Atlanta the week before. Chase Elliott won at Road America and earlier at Circuit of the Americas. Kyle Busch has 2 wins from Pocono and Kansas. Alex Bowman grabbed the first of the double-header weekend at Pocono with 2 other checkers from Pocono and Richmond. Kyle Larson had a string of points win around his All Star victory. Nashville, Sonoma and Charlotte were practically back to back with a 4th win at Vegas. Martin Truex Jr was hot early in the season with wins from Darlington. Martinsville and Phoenix. Brad Keselowski came out of Talladega on top. Joey Logano won the dirty Bristol Race. Ryan Blaney snagged Atlanta. William Byron pulled his first win at Homestead. Christopher Bell also hit his first Cup win at the Daytona Road Course. Michael McDowell started the season with his first Cup win at the Daytona 500 opener. McDowell also had a fairly hot early season but seems to be hanging on with performance currently.
Denny Hamlin is hanging on near the top with now wins. Notable, also, is the struggling season of Kevin Harvick. It is an oddity to see the hard charger #4 not notching a win with the season looming late in the schedule. The past few years have seen Harvick sitting comfortable with post season assurance. This season he is just above the cut with 4 races to make it.
So… Here we are with swimming, fencing, cycling and all the other Olympic events carried over from Covid cancel in 2020 to barely Covid live crowds in 2021 in Tokyo. All the NBC channels have the variety of sport across the spectrum and the daily schedule.
Watkins Glen is set to roll out August 8. NASCAR returns to Virginia with the 2nd race of the playoffs on September 11. Virginia race fans have Richmond with Bristol (just over the border) the week after. Later, The race before the season finale at Phoenix is October 31st at Martinsville.
In the Olympic off time, find a local track with some hot laps on track and take advantage of the NASCAR off weeks and get reacquainted with some home track racing.
Virginia gets a double shot of NASCAR Cup racing with Richmond this weekend following Martinsville last weekend. A bit of a switch up continues as Xfinity ran at Martinsville and the Camping World Trucks will run at Richmond. The TOYOTACARE 250 truck race is on Saturday and the Cup Toyota Owners 400 is on Sunday (April 17-18)
The weekly short tracks continue their races as the season heats up. South Boston is running their Southern Ground Pounders event with Vintage Sportsman and Open Wheel Mods. The SGP Tour hits Virginia tracks several times through 2021. Following South Boston they run at Motor Mile just a week later. Dominion and Langley are also on the schedule.
Wythe Raceway is also running Vintage Sportsman and Mods on the dirt track. Lonesome Pine is running at night this weekend. Langley has drifting. Natural Bridge is running practically every weekend. Franklin County is also back in action this weekend.
Virginia Motorsports Park has the VP ET Bracket Series heating up the straight line racing. Eastside up in Waynseboro also has their drag strip on tap.
There is a lot of action on track this weekend from NASCAR Cup laps to local hero straight line speed. Pick a track and support some racing. NASCAR at Richmond, with their recent infield improvements for fans, raised the bar for Virginia racing. The open garage walkway is a great way for fans to see the national drivers up close.
However, Richmond Raceway may not be an option for every race fan. The local tracks and drivers put on great shows and deserve some of that praise from the stands. If you can’t make Richmond… There are some really good tracks with exciting racing running close to home. Tickets are family friendly, the racing is fast and the tracks and drivers truly appreciate your support.
As the year opens up and vaccines are more available and restrictions continue to be relaxed perhaps now is the time to go racing!